About this blog

This blog is all about fly fishing for native trout. On it I cover trip reports, fishing tactics, conservation, the latest news about native trout species and much more. This site provides a companion to my web page Nativetroutflyfishing.com.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Back to the saltwater

It had been sometime since I had fished the saltwater, so when my friend Blake called me up wanting to go out to a couple of our favorite spots there was no way that I was going to turn him down. October is prime time for salmon, which are returning to spawn in streams throughout the Puget Sound area and as such our first spot to hit was a local estuary, which receives a healthy run of Coho and Chum Salmon. We arrived at the estuary a couple of hours after the tide began to flood and started fishing. The thing that I have always loved about this place is that it has been left in a fairly natural state, and even though it is close to home it gives the feeling of a wilderness experience.

The estuary at high tide

When we first started fishing the water had poor visibility, but we found a school of Coho almost right away and each got several good takes, but no solid hook ups. However, as the tide began to rise the water cleared and fish showed less and less interest in our offerings. Even so, as I was working a school of fish I heard Blake yell that he needed the net, so I ran upstream to find him tied into a heavy fish. When he finally brought the fish to the net, it wasn't a salmon but instead one of the biggest Coastal Cutthroat that I have seen. This stream certainly has the potential to produce some large Cutthroat and this fish was a prime example, measuring right around 20" and weighing over 3lbs.

Blake's big Cutthroat

Another shot of the big Coastal Cutthroat

After Blake got his big Cutthroat the fishing for salmon didn't show any signs of improvement and so we gave it another hour before deciding to move on to our second spot. The next beach is located within close proximity to several estuaries, and usually holds good numbers of staging salmon this time of the year. We got there at slack tide and fishing started out slow with a few fish jumping, but not much biting. However, once the tide started moving again the fish started biting and the fishing improved. Most the fish here were Chum Salmon averaging 8 to 12lbs, but there were also some Coho hanging around as well. Numbers were not the problem either, instead the difficult part was finding the right fly and retrieve that might entice the lock jawed salmon to bite. Once we figured that out though and found some willing fish we started hooking up with fish every few casts. These fish were no push overs either and thought nothing of taking us well into our backing and putting our gear to the edge of its limits. When all was said and done, Blake and I caught and released about five salmon apiece, including several chrome Chum, before the weather finally gave out on us and we were blown off the water.
Me hooked up with a big Chum Salmon

A bright female chum salmon just beginning to show its spawning colors

Blake with a big male Chum Salmon in its spawning colors

Monday, October 6, 2008

Finishing up the Cutt Slam

About a month ago my sister invited me to join her on a trip to eastern Idaho to visit her husband's family. This area is one of my favorite parts of the to world, so of course I jumped at the opportunity. The trip also prompted me to decided to finish up the Wyoming Cutt Slam, in which anglers have to catch four of Wyoming's native Cutthroat Trout in their native streams. Back in 2006, I had fished in Wyoming and caught three types of it's native Cutthroat, so I just needed one more to finish it up. That last fish was the Green River strain of the Colorado River Cutthroat, which is native to central Wyoming, only a few hours from where we were staying. 

Day 1: Saturday, September 27th 2008: The entire first day of the trip was spent making the 13 hour drive to Driggs, Idaho. Not much exciting happened except for some issues with our hotel reservation, which ended up being at a place that Expedia was offering reservations for but wasn't actually open during the off-season. Once we got things cleared up with Expedia, we ended up at a Best Western which worked out alright. 

Day 2: Sunday, September September 28th 2008: My sister and I took the day to check out the area (including a couple hours for fishing), which is located just on the slightly less famous western side of the Teton Mountains. We grabbed some lunch at in Victor, ID, which happened to have some of the best Potato soup that I have ever had. After this, we ran down to the Teton River where I tried my luck fishing for a little bit.
The Teton River

Essentially the Teton River in the Driggs area is a huge spring creek with a strong population of Yellowstone Cutthroat, a few Brook Trout and some Mountain Whitefish. The only problem is that the river gets a lot of attention from other fisherman. Needless to say the fish were extremely picky and I didn't have much luck. The next place that we went to check out was the Grand Targhee Ski Resort, which is just outside of town. Even though it was way to early to think about snowboarding this place looked like it would be a fun slope, and the fall colors in the Tetons were awesome.

Fall colors at Grand Targhee

From here I went to try a little fishing at a local stream. When I first walked up to the creek I spooked a trout, but this was also the only fish that I saw. Even though the fishing tough, the scenery was great, so I still had a great time.

The creek

Day 3: Monday September 29th 2008: Today I had a full to devote to fishing, so I headed up to a small stream in the Tetons to see if I could find any Yellowstone Cutthroat. I arrived at the trail to the creek little after 9:00 AM and started hiking.

The wilderness area boundary

I reached the creek about a 1/4 mile up the trail, and rigged up my rod with a size 12 Royal PMX and Copper John dropper. The creek was a classical medium gradient mountain stream, consisting of riffles, runs and a few pools and pieces of pocket water every once and a while. I started systematically covering the water and working my way upstream, but after a half an hour I still hadn't had any grabs. I finally came to a small pool where a few fish were holding, but when I got closer wasn't to happy to notice that they were all Brook Trout. Outside their native range Brook Trout generally outcompete other trout (especially Cutthroat), so they have been a big problem to the continued existence of many populations of native trout. Even so, I was here so I might as well fish for them, and just upstream of the pool I rose one, but lost it. I continued working my way upstream, without any further grabs until I came to a small piece of pocket water where I saw a fish rise. I made my cast and the fish eagerly ate my dry fly. The fish fought in the typical Brook Trout fashion, going deep and doing a bit of thrashing around but little else.

Even though they aren't native to the west, Brook Trout are an extremely beautiful fish

The creek

After catching my first one, I started noticing a few more Brookies here and there, but they are all extremely spooky so I had to be very careful not to scare them when I approached promising looking water. This often meant that I had to hide behind something or make an extremely long cast to get a response from the fish. The sneaky approach tactic worked great though, and I started hooking up and catching Brook Trout left and right, but still no Cutthroat.

A spawning pair of Brook Trout

About a mile upstream from where I started, the creek began to change in character, having a much steeper gradient and consisting of more pools and pocket water. It was just at the beginning of this high gradient section that I finally hooked a fish that didn't act like the typical Brook Trout. Instead it shot strait out of they water, then followed up with several more jumps and when I brought it to the net it ended up being a beautiful little native Yellow Cutthroat.

My first Yellowstone cutthroat from the stream

After the first one, the amount of Cutthroat drastically increased, although Brook Trout still seemed to outnumber them about 3:1. If I had to chose a favorite type of water to fish for trout it would probably small stream pocket water, so I felt like I was in my element here. Just about every pool that I came held at least one fish, and as I progressed further upstream, the Tetons began to come into view, really adding to the experience. After a while I came to a perfect looking pool with a small water fall at its head that just screamed trout. I hid behind a large boulder and made a short cast upstream, only to watch a "monster" Cutthroat materialize from the depths, and slowly but confidently rise to the surface to inhale my dry fly. The fish turned, and I set the hook and it was fish on. Even though the Cutthroat put up a valiant effort and a good bend in my fly rod, it really didn't have anywhere to go and I brought it to the net after a short fight. Against the basket of my net I figure that the fish was about 14", which was extremely impressive for the surroundings that he was living in.

My big Cutthroat

The pool where the Cutthroat came from

A few pools above where I got the big Cutthroat, I got a slightly smaller but still impressive sized Brook Trout. However, not to far above where I caught this big Brookie, the stream began to level off again and I decided that I had probably fished enough for one day so I made my way to the trail and hiked back out to the car.

The big Brook Trout

Looking upstream toward the Tetons

That evening after fishing, my sister and I joined her husband's cousin on a horseback ride to a small lake in the mountains, which was a lot of fun and a new experience for me. 

Day 4: Tuesday September 30th 2008: I spent the day with my sister going to meet her husband's family. No fishing, but we got some killer Indian Tacos at the Fort Hall Indian Reservation with her relatives for lunch. After visiting the family, we left Idaho behind and headed over to Jackson, WY for the next couple of days. 

Day 5: Wednesday October 1st 2008: This was my day to see if I could finish up the Wyoming Cutt Slam by catching some Green River strain Colorado River Cutthroat. Prior to leaving a native trout buddy Dave B. had pointed me in the right direction for a decent stream, so I got up early to make the long drive over to the Green River drainage. Even though it had been nice every day, the mornings showed signs that fall was in progress, and the temperature was 25 degrees when I left Jackson in the morning. Once in the Green River valley, it became evident that the Pronghorn Antelope were making their annual migration to their overwintering grounds, as every open field had 10-20 antelope in it. About 8:00 AM I turned off on the road to the creek and covered the 30 miles of dirt road to finally reach my destination, a broad valley tucked back in the Wyoming Range.

The creek valley

One couldn't ask for a more perfect little trout stream, and besides a few hunters driving up and down the valley, I had the place to myself. This was a stereotypical little meadow stream, that lazily flowed through the valley doing a series of perfect U turns with a few beaver ponds thrown in here and there. I hit the water using my ever dependable Royal PMX and Copper John dropper set up and caught a fish almost right away.

A Green River Cutthroat

However, after this initial fish the fishing unfortunately slowed down a bit and even though I cast to every likely looking spot, I didn't find anymore fish for the next 1/4 mile upstream. It seemed as though the combination of the cold morning air and the fish moving to more suitable over-wintering water may have been working against me. I finally found some fish at a where riffle came into a deep pool as the creek turned a corner. The first fish I got was a Cutthroat, but the second was something unexpected; a small Mountain Whitefish. While Whitefish don't have the best reputation with fly fisherman and the one that I caught was tiny, I was pretty happy about my catch as it was a first for me.

The little Mountain Whitefish

A beaver pond on the creek

After this, the fishing continued to improve and I caught several more Cutthroat as I worked my way upstream. After covering about a mile of the stream, I put a Wooly Bugger and began working my way back downstream. In one of the pools that I came to I caught a small Brook Trout while stripping the Wooly Bugger in, which was an unwelcomed sight in this beautiful little Cutthroat stream. Since this was the only Brook Trout that I saw, it can only be hoped that they will not establish themselves in this creek. On the next cast I got one of my better Cutthroat from the creek, then made way back to the car wishing that I had more time to spend in the area.

A Green River Cutthroat caught on a Wooly Bugger

I got back to Jackson around 3:00pm and my sister and I wandered around town for a while to check out the shops and sights. Next we ran up to Teton National Park and drove around for a bit doing some wildlife viewing and sight seeing. While there, we saw our first moose, which was exciting even though our view was pretty obstructed by some willows that it was laying behind. After going up to the Tetons, went back to Jackson where we got some Sushi for dinner at a little restaurant called Nekai. The Rocky Mountains and good sushi do not seem like something that would go together, but this place was excellent and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

A few Elk in Teton National Park

Day 6: Thursday October 2nd 2008: Today we would begin working our way back home. My sister had never been to Yellowstone, so we decided to drive though park on the way back. While driving through the Tetons, we saw four more moose, which was really cool. It is kind of crazy though, as I have been to the Yellowstone area seven other times and this was the first trip that I had seen any moose on and I end up seeing five of them...

A Moose from across the Snake River

October is a great time to visit Yellowstone, as the crowds have died down, the animals are out and the trees are in their fall colors. The first stop was at Old Faithful, and our timing couldn't have been better as the geyser went off right as we got to the viewing area.

Old Faithful

From here we went up to a hot spring area along the Firehole River and did a bit of hiking, before heading up to Mammoth and out the north entrance of the park. After leaving the park, the rest of the day was spent crossing Montana, and we ended up making it to Coeur d' Alene Idaho where we stayed for the night. 

The Firehole River in the hot springs area

A Bison in Yellowstone

Day 7: Friday, October 3rd 2008: We spent a little bit of time in Coeur d' Alene, then headed back home to Washington. Overall it was an awesome trip, and felt great to just get away for a while. Beyond that, the fishing was great and I managed to catch three native salmonids including one new one, plus I finished of the Wyoming Cutt Slam.